Deep in the heart of industrial park, inside a nondescript warehouse, there is a little-known oasis for climbers in Grand Cayman. With 800 sq ft (75 sq m) of top-notch bouldering and climbing walls, the Cayman climbing gym serves as both a training ground for Cayman’s dedicated climbers and a great starting place for beginners. The walls top out at 20ft (6m) with plenty of features to keep all ages and fitness levels happy. This is the perfect place to hone your skills before hitting the bluff in the Brac. Rock Iguana is not officially affiliated with the climbing gym, but we have volunteered hundreds of hours building the gym, setting routes, and running events here since the beginning so it is very close to our hearts. The gym was a major catalyst for starting Rock Iguana Ltd. after we saw how many people wanted to learn to climb in Cayman.
For those that are unfamiliar with the term “bouldering,” it refers to climbing short and tricky routes without a rope. The routes usually top out below 10 ft and crash pads are used as protection instead of ropes. In bouldering, routes are called “problems” and they usually consist of a short sequence of difficult moves that takes as much mental effort as does physical effort to solve them. The Cayman climbing gym is chock-full of boulder problems with a wide range of difficulties that will be sure to test your mind and body. Bouldering can be practiced alone, but it is more fun and safe when done with a partner or group. It often takes a group of us working together to solve a difficult problem so if you ever walk into the gym and see a bunch of people staring at one spot on the wall looking perplexed, don’t worry. They are probably just trying to figure out the latest boulder problem.
Joining The Gym
The gym is a members-only non-profit club; all of the members share the operational expenses and everyone helps pitch-in for any work that needs to be done. This means that there is no staff or opening hours, instead each member gets an access code to the door and can use the facility 24/7 to climb to their heart’s content. It isn’t uncommon to find a few devoted climbers training in the middle of night! Climbing is one of the most fun and interesting ways to get in shape and meet amazing people and the gym is the epicenter for all the action in Grand Cayman (the real action is in the Brac though :p ). Contact the Cayman Climbing Gym Facebook page if you are interested in joining the gym or just checking it out. We also hold open climb events every once in a while, so be sure to follow Rock Iguana on Facebook to keep up with all of the latest happenings in the climbing community. If you have never climbed before, keep reading below about the foundation course we offer that will teach you everything you need to know for the gym and introduce you to this beautiful sport.
Rock Iguana offers a foundation course in the gym to teach the fundamentals of safe top-rope climbing and bouldering. To create a safe climbing environment for everyone, you are required to take this course before joining the gym if you don’t have prior climbing and belaying experience. The course is taught in two 2-hour sessions by an AMGA certified instrcutor and costs $95. A minimum of 4 people is required to hold the course, but we can add you to an existing class if you would like to join by yourself. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book or for more information.
The following topics are covered:
- Review of the basic top-rope gear including harnesses, carabiners, ropes, and belay devices
- How-to tie the basic tie-in knot: figure-eight follow-through
- Safe belaying techniques with an ATC-style device
- Standardized communication and safety checks for climber and belayer
- Bouldering protection with correct crash pad placement and spotting
- Introduction to climbing route grades and color scheme used in the gym
This course will also give you a massive head start if you intend to take the Intro to Climbing course in the Brac. Your weekend will be less about learning the basics and more about spending time on the legendary Brac rock!
Listed below are all of the walls in the gym starting from the left when entering the gym from the front door.
The first few panels to the left of the front door are known as the flats due to their flat vertical faces. These walls provide some of the easiest climbs in the gym and are the perfect place for beginners to dive into climbing or for experienced climbers to warm up. That doesn’t mean that they are all easy though, as some of the trickiest technical climbs also live here. They don’t have to be steep to be hard!
This interesting little corner nestled between the flat walls offers two big roofs that are the perfect place to practice your underclings (grabbing from the bottom of a hold). The bottom section also acts like a chimney with two opposing walls that you can apply some fancy footwork to spider your way up.
Speaking of spiders, the next big wall is named after its uncanny resemblance to the spider’s home. The bottom section is one to the only slab sections (less steep than vertical), but this quickly changes halfway up the wall to a steeper section that will test your arm strength. Plenty of fun footwork in the middle section that will let you truly connect with your inner spider.
This was the first wall that was built in the gym so even though it is simple, it will always hold a special place in our hearts <3. It is slightly over-vertical and it feels nice and easy at the bottom, but by the time you get to the top, your arms will definitely be feeling the burn!
A steep, short, and sweet wall with plenty of difficult boulder problems. The climbs here tend to consist of a few hard moves that you have to complete using the perfect sequence of body movements. A great place to fine-tune your balance and footwork.
A perennial favourite since it was built, the cave offers a massive roof that allows you to hang upside down for the ultimate test of arm strength and precise footwork. Round the corner of the roof for an epic top-out onto the mezzanine.
The wall you encounter as soon as you enter the front door is the newest wall in the gym and this beast offers endless options with all of its funky angles. It is also home to two bouldering loops that you can test your endurance by trying to complete as many laps as possible.
Photography by Jim Gates